Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a structural component for retinal photoreceptors and brain gray matter. DHA deficiency results in poor accumulation of neural DHA and the retinal photoreceptors have the highest DHA levels in the body.
Maternal DHA accumulates at an increased rate during pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. Women in the U.S. and Canada have diets that are below optimum in DHA. DHA intakes of 300 mg./day are advised for pregnant women because the fetus has very limited ability to produce DHA.
The present with thirty pregnant women study and placebo controls, was done to see if DHA-functional food during pregnancy would improve infant visual acuity at four and six months of infant age. An acuity card procedure was used to test the infant’s vision. Cereal-based bars were used containing 300 mg. DHA and women received 3, 5, or 7 bars weekly from 24 weeks of pregnancy to delivery.
Infants from the above pregnancies were tested at four and six months with Teller acuity cards. The cards contain grids that seem to be quite interesting to infants if they can see them. The same person administered all the visual tests and observed the reactions of the infants. “The card with the finest grating that the infant could see was defined as the threshold.”
The study showed that DHA supplemented mothers had babies who had improved vision at four months compared to controls who did not receive supplementation. Differences were not seen at six months. Visual acuity improved for all infants from four to six months. The food that the infants received after birth did not seem to make a difference.
If the fetus does not get sufficient DHA, the retinal tissues accumulate docosapentaenoic acid from omega-6 fatty acid instead of docosahexaenoic acid. This changes the membrane characteristics of tissues, which lead to functional deficits.
CONCLUSION: DHA supplementation during pregnancy seems to play a role in the visual system maturation of the infant as tested at four months after birth. It is known that deficient DHA leads to visual deficits.
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